Lee Kunkel (@Kunkel5)
Drexel (8-4) at Southern Miss (12-2)
When: Friday January 3rd, 8pm
Where: Reed Green Coliseum, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
KenPom: Drexel 83, Southern Miss 67
In a sentence: The Drexel Dragons wrap up non-conference play against a very good Southern Miss team that has won six of their last seven and is undefeated at home.
Getting to Know the Eagles:
Coming into Friday’s game, the Golden Eagles have a very impressive record, but there isn’t a lot weight to that record.
They’ve lost games to Louisville and Western Kentucky, neither of which is bad, but have don’t have any wins that jump out. Their best win, according to KenPom, is North Dakota State, a one point victory on the road back on November 18th.
With that said, 12-2 is still an impressive record, especially given they have only played five of their games (all wins) at the friendly confines of Reed Green Coliseum.
It all starts on the defensive end for head coach Donnie Tyndall and his team.
They’re allowing only 98.8 points-per-100 possessions, that’s good enough for a spot in the top-100 (82nd) in adjusted defense.
What makes them so good?
They really do a great job at pressuring the opposition, and forcing turnovers. They own a 24.3 percent turnover percentage, thats 10th best in all of college basketball.
With a good turnover percentage comes a good steal percentage, and the Golden Eagles have just that at 12.2 percent. That’s 15th best in college basketball.
Their pressure does have it’s problems though, as they commit a ton of fouls, sending teams to the free throw line more then almost any team in the country (55.5 free throw rate).
On the offensive side, Southern Miss is very efficient, scoring 109.2 points-per-100 possessions.
A lot of that success comes from their ability to get to the free throw line. They’re free throw rate is an astounding 58.6 (free throws attempted per field goals attempted).
As you can tell from these stats, the Eagles take a lot of free throws, and hand out a lot of free throws.
One thing they don’t do all that well on the offensive end of the court is protect the ball. They own a 21.2 percent turnover percentage, that’s 300th in college basketball.
Southern Miss has a very balanced offensive attack. Not one play averaged more then 13 points-per-game, but they feature five guys over nine points-per-game.
5-11 guard Neil Watson leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points-per-contest and also plays the most minutes, 32.4 per-game.
He’s a solid three point shooter as well, shooting over 40 percent (42.1) from three point range, so the Dragons need to keep him off the three-point-line and keep a hand in his face at all times.
Michael Craig is another nice weapon on this Golden Eagle squad. He leads the team in rebounding with 7.3 rebounds-per-game and is second in scoring at 10.5 per-game.
Keys to the Game
1) Win the turnover battle: Southern Miss and the word “turnovers” go hand-in-hand this season.
They do an excellent job at forcing them on defense but give them a way far too easily on the offensive side of the ball.
The Drexel guards need to do a good job at limiting them on offense and putting good pressure on the Golden Eagle ball handlers on the defensive end.
According to KenPom, the Dragons are the second best team in all of college basketball at taking care of the ball with, turning it over just 13.3 percent of the time. If they can live up to that number Friday, they will put themselves in a great position to win.
2) Play poised basketball, don’t commit silly fouls: Southern Miss is a very good team on their home-court, so it will be important for Drexel, specifically Tavon Allen –who can be a little erratic at times–to play poised basketball. That means take care of the ball, get good shots, and don’t commit silly fouls.
Southern Miss does a great job at getting to the line, and will earn their share of trips to the charity stripe. The Dragons do not want to compound that with silly fouls that give the Golden Eagles more freebies, and get the away team in even more foul trouble.
3) Control the Paint: The Eagles aren’t exactly the biggest team in the country. Their tallest player is 6-7, and they have some very small guards. This is something Drexel can take advantage of.
While Drexel doesn’t own a ton of size themselves, they do have some guys who love to score inside, especially off the dribble.
The Dragon guards are very good at getting to the rim, and without a big presence in the paint they should be able to get to the basket at will. Expect Frantz Massenat and Chris Fouch to attack the rim.
Southern Miss commits a lot of fouls, and if Drexel can attack the rim, they should find themselves with a lot of opportunities from the free throw line.